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The United States has carried out a drone strike against an Islamic State (IS) “planner” in eastern Afghanistan, the military has said, a day after an attack outside Kabul’s airport killed 13 US troops and at least 169 Afghans. 

“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” a US military statement said.

US President Joe Biden declared after the airport bombing that the perpetrators of the attack outside Kabul airport would not be able to hide.

Mr Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed that the United States would hunt down those responsible, and said he had ordered the Pentagon to come up with plans to strike at the perpetrators.

“We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.

He blamed the airport attack on Afghanistan’s offshoot of the Islamic State group, ISIS-K, an enemy of both the Taliban and the West.

On Friday (local time), the US military said it launched the drone strike that it believed had killed an IS attack planner.

But officials have cautioned that beyond a symbolic act or limited operation, the United States could in fact do little to degrade ISIS-K.

An unnamed Western official has told Reuters that “swift passage” is now being provided for “every foreigner” seeking to leave Afghanistan in the next 48 hours.

A US marine helps an evacuee among the crowd at Kabul's international airport
Crowds gathered for days at Kabul’s international airport while a US-led evacuation was underway.(

Reuters: US Marine Corps/Handout

)

ISIS-K claimed airport suicide attack

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of militants who previously battled US forces in Syria and Iraq, said it had carried out Thursday’s attack, which killed dozens of people — including at least 169 Afghans who were trying to leave the country, according to two US officials.

In addition to the 13 US troops killed, 18 injured were flown to Germany.

There are roughly 5,000 US troops at Kabul’s airport, helping to evacuate American citizens, at-risk Afghans and other nationalities before Mr Biden’s Tuesday deadline for evacuation.

Thursday’s attack marked the first US military casualties in Afghanistan since February 2020 and represented the deadliest incident for American troops there in a decade.

The speed with which the US military retaliated reflected its close monitoring of IS and years of experience in targeting extremists in remote parts of the world. 

The US President was warned on Friday to expect another lethal attack in the closing days of a frantic US-led evacuation. 

The race out of Afghanistan

US and allied forces are racing to complete evacuations of their citizens and vulnerable Afghans and to withdraw from Afghanistan by the Tuesday deadline.

While thousands have been evacuated, they are far outnumbered by those who could not get out.

Australian troops had already left Afghanistan before the suicide bombing on Thursday, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said, but there were still Australians and visa-holders stuck in Kabul.

They have been asked to keep away from Kabul airport, as Mr Dutton has said intelligence showed more terrorist attacks were planned.

Throngs of people have gathered outside the airport to try to get onto evacuation flights since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15, although on Friday, Taliban guards stopped people from approaching.

Reuters/AP

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Who are the Islamic State Khorasan?

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